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Destroying tumors in the brain.

A technique that destroys inoperable tumors or malformations in the brain is being used by physicians at the Ochsner Medical Institutions, New Orleans. Stereotactic radiosurgery utilizes small directed beams of radiation to treat areas that may be inaccessible by conventional surgery or for patients who may be unable to withstand an operation.

The one-time application also is an out-patient, or same-day, procedure and may serve as a substitute for what can be in some cases up to 20-30 radiation therapy treatments, indicates Roland Hawkins of the Radiation Oncology Department. "Using those precisely directed beams of radiation, we are able to focus on and destroy the diseased tissue and spare nearly all of the surrounding healthy tissue. This procedure shows tremendous promise in treating certain types of brain tumors and other malformations within the cranial area."

The key to stereotactic radiosurgery is determining the location of the diseased tissue and programming those coordinates into a linear accelerator--the unit that emits the radiation beams. The accelerator is rotated around the targeted area in the patient's brain, allowing high doses of radiation to be administered directly to the designated site. The procedure usually takes a full day and is performed with a local anesthetic. A computerized tomography (CT) scan is used to determine the exact coordinates of the diseased tissue within the brain. Working from that information, doctors then affix a metal ring to the head which helps the linear accelerator focus on the targeted area.

"The target of the beams--the diseased tissue--is always in the path, no matter how the linear accelerator may turn," Hawkins explains. "This delivers the highest possible dose of radiation to the targeted area while neighboring normal tissue is spared."

Stereotactic radiosurgery currently is being used for patients with various types of brain, head, and neck tumors, as well as brain tumors that have not responded to radiotherapy. It also can be utilized in the treatment of arteriovenous malformations, malformed blood vessels in the brain that can cause seizures and generally are inoperable.
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Title Annotation:radiation
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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